Nutrient transport within and between habitats through seed dispersal processes by woolly monkeys in north-western Amazonia

Authors

  • Pablo R. Stevenson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratorio de Ecología de Bosques Tropicales y Primatología, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
    • Laboratorio de Ecología de Bosques Tropicales y Primatología, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Los Andes, Cr 1 No. 18A–12. Of. J-213, Bogotá, Colombia
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  • Diana C. Guzmán-Caro

    1. Laboratorio de Ecología de Bosques Tropicales y Primatología, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
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Abstract

The contribution of vertebrate animals to nutrient cycling has proven to be important in various ecosystems. However, the role of large bodied primates in nutrient transport in neotropical forests is not well documented. Here, we assess the role of a population of woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagothricha lugens) as vectors of nutrient movement through seed dispersal. We estimated total seed biomass transported by the population within and between two habitats (terra firme and flooded forests) at Tinigua Park, Colombia, and quantified potassium (K), phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) content in seeds of 20 plant species from both forests. Overall, the population transported an estimated minimum of 11.5 (±1.2 SD) g of potassium, 13.2 (±0.7) g of phosphorus and 34.3 (±0.1) g nitrogen, within 22.4 (±2.0) kg of seeds ha−1 y−1. Approximately 84% of all nutrients were deposited in the terra firme forest mostly through recycling processes, and also through translocation from the flooded forest. This type of translocation represents an important and high-quality route of transport since abiotic mechanisms do not usually move nutrients upwards, and since chemical tests show that seeds from flooded forests have comparatively higher nutrient contents. The overall contribution to nutrient movement by the population of woolly monkeys is significant because of the large amount of biomass transported, and the high phosphorus content of seeds. As a result, the phosphorus input generated by these monkeys is of the same order of magnitude as other abiotic mechanisms of nutrient transport such as atmospheric deposition and some weathering processes. Our results suggest that via seed dispersal processes, woolly monkey populations can contribute to nutrient movement in tropical forests, and may act as important nutrient input vectors in terra firme forests. Am. J. Primatol. 72:992–1003, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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